Japan should strategically bring in more students from emerging economies who can contribute to both their homeland and Japan’s growth, a midterm report by an education panel working on exchange student issues said Monday.

The report compiled by the nine-member panel, headed by Tsutomu Kimura, chairman of the Tokyo board of education, calls for selecting priority regions and setting up target fields of study for the exchange students to yield the best results.

It tentatively proposed nine regions and countries, including those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, the Middle East and South America, where high economic growth is expected.

The fields especially flagged are engineering, medical care, law and agriculture. The report says Japan excels in these fields and can contribute even after the exchange students go home.

“The basic idea is to set up a strategy to draw highly capable foreign students (to help fuel) Japan’s growth, a point the past approach lacked, and also to contribute to the development of the students’ countries,” explained Kohei Okawa, an assistant division chief in the higher education bureau at the education ministry.

The steps outlined in the past strategy were based on educational and diplomatic considerations, Okawa said.

For example, Japan can help improve the level of medical care in the students’ countries via education, and can continue to be involved in operating hospitals in those nations that are set up as part of Japanese assistance, the report emphasized.

The report proposed several steps to promote the strategy, including deployment of personnel to the priority regions in charge of drawing students to Japan.

Japan is far behind in the number of organizations it runs abroad to attract foreign students, the report said.

Branches of EducationUSA, an institution that offers information on studying in the United States, is present in more than 400 cities in 173 nations, while the United Kingdom runs the British Council in 197 cities in 110 countries.

Japan runs similar organizations in just four cities in four countries.

The report also suggested creating online communities of past and current exchange and prospective students, and for the Japanese government and firms, using social-networking services, to share information and to stay connected with Japan.

Japan was hosting 137,756 exchange students as of May 1, 2012, figures by the Japan Student Services Organization show. Chinese accounted the most, at 86,324, followed by 16,651 South Koreans and 4,617 Taiwanese.

The government set up a plan in 2008 to attract 300,000 exchange students from abroad by 2020.

The panel is scheduled to compile its final report by the end of December.

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